Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham

Words to live by

ITEM FILE PHOTO 
A girl wears a decorated cap at the Medford High School and Medford Vocational Technical High School graduation.

High school seniors spend months anticipating graduation and just participating in a milestone event in their lives. As Malden High School class orator Felicia Lombardi put it: “I feel like I have been ready to graduate since August of 2013.”

The pomp and circumstances seem to pass in a flash and, in some ways, graduation day offers a reminder for people on the verge of adulthood to savor each and every moment.

Speakers at more than a dozen graduations held since late May in Lynn and surrounding communities took time to reflect and offer words of wisdom that are poignant for their ability to reflect youthful optimism and a refusal to look at the world as a dark and damaged place.

St. Mary’s High School salutatorian Katie Cadigan, waxing philosophical, reminded fellow seniors: “Time … has the power to rob you, and the power to give.”

In an equally eloquent reflection, Lynn Vocational Technical Institute senior Ashley Pimentel reminded classmates, “No one can tell us what lies ahead.” Her words are equal parts warning and message of defiance reminding the Class of 2017 that the time has come to fully take life into their own hands.

Lynn School Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham reminded Fecteau-Leary graduates that “60 percent of job opportunities are tied to your high school diploma.” Latham knows that the students who use their diploma as a stepping stone to trade skills training or an advanced degree put themselves on a path to lifetime success.

From first library card to director

Another veteran education leader, Peabody Interim Superintendent Herb Levine told Class of 2017 members to “be nice.”

“I know that sounds simple, but we need that in this world.”

Swampscott High class vice president Claire Powell urged classmates to greet the world with “determination and resilience.”

Malden Catholic Headmaster Thomas Doherty reminded graduating seniors “we are truly a family” with bonds to the school enduring long after graduation. Classical High School salutatorian Calvin Cheung referenced Mark Twain to remind his classmates that graduation might be the day they detect their life’s purpose.

Latham amplified that theme in remarks to English High School seniors when she urged them to go through life with an open mind to new ideas and a willingness to take chances.

Some of the thousands of Lynn area students who marked this spring by graduating from high school will leave their communities for distant places. Some will travel halfway around the world to serve their country. Some will start college careers. Some will stay in Lynn, Malden, Medford or Saugus.

We urge all of them, including Revere and Knowledge Is Power Program seniors who graduated last night and Marblehead seniors who will stride across the stage on Sunday to heed Medford High School faculty speaker Andrew Milne’s suggestion: “Get yourself to your own starting line.”

An election year exodus

Lynn Ward 2 City Councilor William Trahant Jr. appears to have set in motion an exodus of veteran elected officials from the City Council and School Committee.

His decision not to run for reelection is sparking a potential return to politics for former committee member Rick Starbard. A popular citywide vote-getter, Starbard probably won’t have an easy walk into the Council Chamber, but he has to be viewed as a favorite to succeed Trahant.

On the committee side, dean of the committee Patricia Capano has decided not to run along with Maria Carrasco, the vocal opponent of Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham, who leaves ally Donna Coppola on the committee.

A relatively small field of newcomers is vying, for now at least, to grab committee seats but the double exodus from the committee could see candidates teaming up to jointly campaign and ask voters to “bullet” their names on the ballot in the fall.

Asking voters to cast ballots for a pack of candidates instead of individuals running for elected office is risky in an era of clearly-stated voter discontent. Voters turned national electoral politics on its proverbial ear last year when they rejected a broad field of established Republican candidates for a political outsider and kept a firebrand upstart alive in the Democratic primaries even as the party’s favorite kept her rendezvous with the party nomination.

Extra Play produces a winner in Peabody

But national politics means little at the local level and the exodus in veterans from city service is a tribute to their collective commitment to serving the city in an age when people find plenty of reasons not to enter politics.

Trahant is better known for his family’s multi-generational roofing business than his council service. Most Ward 2 constituents would agree Billy Trahant readily shunned his Council Chamber seat for a chance to climb behind the wheel of a pickup and plow their driveways during a blizzard.

Finding a candidate to replace his type of hands-on, nuts-and-bolts service to local residents as a councilor isn’t a guarantee this election year.

Capano alternately guided and chided committee colleagues, including mayors serving as committee chairmen, to evaluate public school policies and tackle complicated issues like net spending and new school construction. Her frustration over school spending seemed to grow in the last several years but her commitment to improving local education will not end when she leaves the committee.

Lynn city elections have always been defined by dramatic wins and losses: Brian LaPierre’s resounding councilor at large win in 2015; Judy Kennedy’s razor-thin 2009 victory; the late Pat McManus’ giant-tumbling win in 1991. In that tradition, the exodus of veteran elected officials this year could usher in victories bent on redefining city politics.

Classical grads chart new course

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
The family of graduate Ruben Ruiz lend their very enthusiastic support.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN In his commencement address to Lynn Classical High School graduates Friday, Boston Globe sports columnist Christopher Gasper said the start of a news story is not unlike the student’s start on their new life.

“I’ve written thousands of stories, but they all start the same way: with a blinking cursor and a blank screen,” said the 1997 Classical graduate. “That moment is exhilarating and terrifying…it’s a moment where anything is possible, but nothing is certain…As graduates, you face that same moment right now…your story is waiting to be written.”

Principal Gene Constantino praised the 349 graduates for almost always doing the right thing. Aside from Senior Skip Day, he said, the class has been very cooperative.

“You lead by example, by making good decisions, for the most part,” he said. “You never failed to help your fellow classmates or others when needed.”  

He encouraged graduates to find a career they love.

“That’s the key to happiness, find a vocation you enjoy and embrace that job,” he said. “I found that happiness, I love my job, find yours.”     

Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham said more than 60 percent of employment opportunities are tied to a high school diploma.

“High school graduates are more likely to be employed, be financially secure, and have their children be at least as well educated, if not more. ”

She encouraged the 2017 class to keep an open mind as they make their way to the next phase of their lives.

“Take chances, continue to educate yourselves, pepper your professional and personal lives with acts of kindness, they are never forgotten,” Latham said. “Surround yourself with positive and encouraging people, it’s infectious.”

Plane route protest takes off in Nahant

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said she was wearing two hats on this graduation day.

“The first is that of mayor and on behalf of the city of Lynn we offer our sincere congratulations to the parents and graduates,” she said. “The other hat I’m wearing is that of a Ram who graduated in 1980. I welcome you into the proud and close family of Lynn Classical alumni.”

Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) invoked the name of President John F. Kennedy who would have celebrated his 100th birthday in May.

“In his inaugural address he talked about passing the torch to a new generation of leaders,” he said. “As you leave here today, you are becoming leaders as part of your future. President Kennedy said one person can make a difference and every person should try.”

Calvin Cheung, Classical’s salutatorian, thanked his family for their support and gave a shout out to his mother.

“Your love and endless support has always kept my spirits up whenever they are low and your kind and inspiring words brought light into moments where I felt disappointed,” he said.

Cheung, who was a member of the winning Northeast Conference Boys Tennis Team, quoted Mark Twain.

“The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why,” he said. “Today, could be day number two.”

Valedictorian Emily Lao, soon to be a biochemistry major, said graduates should be very proud of their accomplishments.

“We did it,” she said. “We finally made it.”


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

 

English grads embark on new journey

ITEM PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
Soon-to-be Lynn English graduates cram into a selfie with state Rep. Daniel Cahill.

By ADAM SWIFT

LYNN — It was the end of one journey and the beginning of another for the graduates of Lynn English High School Friday.

Decades from now, it won’t be the speeches from the principals and politicians, or even ‘97 English graduate and state Rep. Dan Cahill’s (D-Lynn) first Instagram photo, that are remembered, but the bonds forged between students.

“When we talk about this ceremony, there are traditions that continue to live on,” said Christopher Cole, the senior class president and de facto host of the morning’s event. “But you will not be judged by your numbers, your GPA or your test scores, when you walk across this stage and your name is mentioned, that is the only thing that will be remembered … it’s you guys who will share the memories and keep them going.”

Cole told the 356 graduates that the road ahead would not be easy, but that he has seen what can happen when his fellow students have pulled together and that he expected them to continue to thrive in the years ahead.

Valedictorian Lily Vu and salutatorian Taylor Sullivan also offered up some words of wisdom for their fellow graduates.

“I can honestly say that I feel more prepared for college than I ever thought I would be, but I’m not prepared to leave Lynn English,” said Sullivan.

Vu said she would never stop showing her Bulldog pride.

“All of us have worked so hard,” she said. “I’m honored to be a part of the class of 2017.”

Classical grads chart new course

For their part, the school and city officials knew the value of playing it short and sweet as they talked about their pride in the students.

“The only thing standing between you and a diploma is the people on this stage,” said Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy. “I wish you all so much success and happiness in life, congratulations Bulldogs class of ‘17.”

State Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) noted that the one hundredth anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s birth recently passed.

“In his inaugural address, he talked about passing the torch to a new generation of leaders,” said McGee. “He also said that just one person can make a difference, but that everyone should try. You are the leaders for today. You can be the person who meets that challenge for a better world.”

Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham spoke about the benefits of earning a high school diploma and encouraged the graduates to never stop learning.

“As you go through the next phase of life, be open to new ideas, take chances, and continue to educate yourselves,” she said.

Cahill was the keynote speaker, and during his commencement speech he spoke of the unique challenges and opportunities the students will face.

Before the students crossed the English stage to get their diplomas and enter into the next phases of their lives, Cahill had one last favor to ask.

“Apparently, I’m on Instagram, but I don’t know how to Instagram; I want this to be my first Instagram,” the state representative said as he snapped a shot on stage with the graduating class behind him. “We live in a wild time. Best of luck, and please go change the world.”

 

Tech students cap off high school careers

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Jennifer Lopez cheers on her fellow graduates as they parade into the field house at graduation.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN Graduates of Lynn Vocational Technical Institute received a rousing send off Thursday as they grabbed their diplomas and headed into the next chapter of their lives.

“No one can tell us what lies ahead,” said graduate Ashley Pimentel. “But there is one thing I am sure of: high school graduation is just the beginning of the long journey that lies ahead.”

The class valedictorian was one of 179 graduates who took center stage before an excited audience in the school’s gym.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy kicked off the afternoon with a congratulatory message of hope and inspiration.

“I wish everybody congratulations and much success on your future whether you are going on to higher education, joining the military, the workforce or taking time to figure out your next step,” she said. “I wish you much happiness on behalf of the city of Lynn.”

Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham said high school graduates earn more than $500,000 more over a lifetime than those who fail to complete school.

She invoked the name of Canadian hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, who played 20 seasons in the National Hockey League.

“Gretzky was right when he said, ‘You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take,’ so take your shots and don’t be afraid to try,” she said.

A rapid endorsement

Principal Robert Buontempo Jr., gave graduates three pieces of advice: take chances; use your words to bless yourself and others; and wished they always be surrounded by people who love them.

“Don’t listen to doubting voices,” he said. “The saying is true that doubt has destroyed more dreams than failure.”

Salutatorian Taylor Seger said the day everyone has worked towards is here.   

“I’m still in shock graduation day has arrived,” she said. “Look at us now, four years gone in a blink of an eye. We are going our separate ways, whether attending college in the fall, joining the armed forces, or going straight into a trade. Some of us will become nurses, pharmacists, electricians and much more. No matter what we do, we can say Lynn Tech helped us in figuring it all out.”

Marissa Colon, class president, who received the loudest applause, said Tech students gave back to the community during their four years at the high school.

“We raised more than $9,000 for My Brother’s Table,” she said. “We also helped victims of the New Year’s Day fire on West Baltimore Street, and honored the first responders of 9/11.”

In his commencement address, state Rep. Brendan Crighton drew laughs at his acknowledgment that he is the least tech-savvy person of anyone at the ceremony.

The Lynn Democrat also drew a few tears when after introducing his parents and praising them for always being there for him, he asked graduates to rise and turn to the parents, grandparents, siblings, faculty, and friends and thank them for their encouragement.

“Their support has helped you get where you are today,” he said.


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

 

Fecteau-Leary class receives mayoral salute

ITEM PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
Cristian Delgado gets embraced by friends after graduation.

By MATT DEMIRS

LYNN — Cheers from proud families and guardians carried throughout City Hall Memorial Auditorium on Wednesday for the 24 students graduating from Fecteau-Leary Junior/Senior High School.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy delivered the opening words to an eager audience.

“It’s always a very special day when Fecteau-Leary graduates,” she said. “We are happy and proud the city of Lynn has another arena for kids to be able to graduate and and earn their diploma.”

The alternative school serves students who struggled in a traditional school setting for a variety of reasons, such as chronic absences, behavior issues, or the need for smaller class sizes with specialized attention. Nonetheless, these students are moving forward with a degree that speaks volumes.

“High school graduates over their lifetime earn half a million dollars more than someone who doesn’t graduate,” Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham said. “Sixty percent of job opportunities are tied to your high-school diploma.”

Latham offered advice for the Class of 2017.

“Take shots, dare to fail, and don’t be discouraged when things don’t turn out how you planned. Success is in each and every one of you.”

Fecteau-Leary alumna, Kiki Cromwell ’13, told of her personal experiences when she was in high school that showcased her ability to overcome adversity, something a lot of students could relate to.

Tech students cap off high school careers

“During part of my high school career I was homeless. I slept in the Lynn Commons and almost lost my brother in a shooting,” she said.

Like the students sitting in front of Cromwell, she graduated and earned her associate’s degree in fire science from Bunker Hill Community College. She attends Salem State University now, all while raising an 11-month-old child.

“Don’t let anyone dull your shine or tell you that you can’t do it,” she said.

Lucy Pecina, a proud member of the Class of 2017, shared a list of thank-yous on behalf of her class.

Pecina, along with almost every speaker, thanked the faculty at Fecteau-Leary for their unwavering support.

“Thank you for the teachers for believing in us and making us laugh to make the days a little less gray,” she said. “The memories I made here will never be forgotten.”

Soon after, the Class of 2017 moved their tassels and strode out of the auditorium to a song by The Script, “Hall of Fame,” which best fit the graduates’ futures.

“You can be the greatest. You can be the best. You can be the King Kong banging on your chest …”


Matt Demirs can be reached at mdemirs@itemlive.com

Getting a jump on jobs at Lynn Tech

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Carmen Arins, Lizabeth Acevedo and Yuleidy Pimenetel gather information about the Gregg Neighborhood House.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Emily Blaney won’t graduate high school until next year, but the 16-year-old already has a career plan.

“I work with special ed kids and I’ve noticed I’m very good at comforting them,” she said. “I’ve decided to be a kindergarten teacher or open a daycare center.”

The Lynn Vocational Technical Institute junior spoke with representatives from the region’s colleges Thursday at the school’s Career Fair about furthering her education. Tech offers a childcare program that provides her with hands-on classroom training with kids.

Blaney was one of more than 100 students who packed the school’s lobby to talk with recruiters from schools, companies, retailers, hospitals, nonprofits, the military and city departments, including police and fire.

School Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham said she was wowed by the number of employers gathered to consider Tech graduates.

“It’s so wonderful for our students to have such a diverse collection of opportunities all in one place,” she said. “Many of these organizations have taken on our students as part of the district’s co-op program.”

Amado and Cristian Roman, 17-year-old twins, said they are seeking opportunities to do an internship at a newspaper where they can use their video production skills.

“I already have lots of hands-on experience recording and editing videos,” said Amado. “I think I have a lot to offer a newspaper.”

Students get a taste of the Real World

His brother, Cristian, said they are considering programs at Emerson College and Fitchburg State University to enhance their skills.

Mary Zwiercan, human resources director at the North Shore Medical Center (NSMC), one of two dozen employers who had a booth at the fair, said the Salem-based hospital has more than 200 jobs available from cafeteria workers, security, radiation technicians and nurses.

“We have an aging workforce and we are hiring, that’s why I’m here,” she said.  

NSCM operates a co-op program at Tech in health sciences where juniors can earn their certified nursing assistant certification. Seniors can enroll in the co-op program which puts students in healthcare settings every other week for 30 hours at $12 per hour.

“They are my future certified nursing assistants and maybe future nurses and doctors,” Zwiercan said.  

Christopher Menjivar said he’s not sure what he’ll do following graduation next year. For now, the 17-year-old junior is founder of Eagles Handyman & Construction Co., a seven-person firm that does home remodeling.

“I’m considering UMass-Boston,” he said. “All things are possible.”


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

 

Lynn lays down the law for students

ITEM PHOTO BY THOR JOURGENSEN
Juvenile Court Chief Justice Amy L. Nechtem welcomes more than 50 students and educators.

By THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN — Students from three Lynn schools got a detailed look at the judicial system Monday during annual Law Day events held in several locations.

Founded nationally by President Eisenhower in 1958 and marked annually in Lynn Juvenile Court for 15 years, Law Day shows students how the courts work and engages them in discussions on the law and what it means in their lives.

“Hopefully, they walk out of Juvenile Court saying, ‘This is somewhere I might want to work,’” said Associate Justice Garrett J. McManus.

Juvenile Court Chief Justice Amy L. Nechtem welcomed students from three local high schools — English, St. Mary’s and Fecteau-Leary — to the Essex County Juvenile Court session on Sutton Street and urged them to contemplate the liberties protected by laws in the United States.

“These liberties must be guarded,” Nechtem reminded the students.

Law Day’s value

Retired Chief Justice Michael F. Edgerton focused his remarks on Law Day 2017’s topic — The 14th Amendment and how it transformed American democracy.

With its roots in post-Civil War years, the amendment laid out legal standards of due process and equal protection that became the battleground for landmark cases initially institutionalizing and, later, striking down segregation and laws upholding separate but equal racial barriers.

“The Supreme Court has relied on the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment. It provides tangible protection against state and local laws that discriminate,” Edgerton said.

Lectures on the law were only part of Law Day. Students submitted essays and Fecteau-Leary students presented Law Day organizers with the seventh Law Day mural they created featuring a three-dimensional design.

Law Day participants, including Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, state Sen. Thomas M. McGee, state Rep. Dan Cahill and School Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham,  participated in other Law Day events Monday scheduled at Classical High School and Connery Elementary School.

City seeking student sanctuary

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — The School Committee adopted a policy to protect students from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“It would be bad if we turned our backs on these kids,” said Oscar Ross, who has a daughter in Lynn Public Schools who dreams of being both a police officer and a cook. “If we don’t give them the chance to be what they want to be.”

Mary Sweeney, a retired teacher, said that during her career, students had to worry about getting their homework done.

“I never faced situations of kids being deeply afraid,” said Sweeney. “I think with the issues of immigration and ICE — it’s a reality.”

The panel voted unanimously to adopt a policy that affirms the schools are safe and welcoming sanctuaries for all students, regardless of their immigration status. The document said the resolutions are intended to ensure that all Lynn Public Schools students have the same right to a free, public education and will be treated equally.

“The mission of Lynn Public Schools is to maintain a multicultural school community dedicated to the realization of the full intellectual, physical, social and emotional potential of its students,” reads the resolution. “The city is enriched and strengthened by its diverse cultural heritage, multinational population, and welcoming attitude toward newcomers.”

Committee member John Ford pointed out that while he agreed with where the resolutions were coming from, he believed they were only reaffirming what the district already does. Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham agreed.

“I believe we have welcoming schools and that our teachers are wonderful and welcoming,” said Latham. “We have not had a case where ICE has come into our schools.”

She added that she believes ICE is restricted from taking immigrants into custody at schools and churches.

“Rather than us saying we already do that, we’ll be able to say that we have a policy for that,” said committee member Donna Coppola. “I think it would be a huge reassurance to our students. Let’s be upfront and be what we are — a proud community — and show others that we care.”

Immigrant-worker march set for Monday

Latham and committee members expressed concerns about a resolution included in the original draft that prohibited federal immigration law enforcement officers, or personnel assisting them, from entering a school building.

“I worry about training teachers not to allow law enforcement to come into the building,” she said.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy added that she was “very uncomfortable” with the section of the resolution because it should be recognized that federal law supersedes local law.

“It seems to me that it’s not a valid exercise of a city’s rights in the presence of federal government,” she said.

The panel amended the resolution to state that law enforcement can enter the building, but must remain in the main office until his or her credentials are verified and the superintendent is notified. The vote will be subject to final approval of the language.

Under the policy, the district will not inquire about, record, or request information intended to reveal the immigration status of a student or their family members. They will not disclose private information without parental consent, and staff will refuse to share all voluntary information with immigration agencies to the fullest extent permissible by the law.

All requests for information from a student’s education record will be immediately forwarded to the School Department’s attorney. The motion also noted that the district does not ask for immigration status when families register children for school.

A letter will be sent to parents and staff summarizing the resolutions in simple language. A list of all available resources, including community-based organizations and legal service organizations, will be provided to each student and made available at each school. It will be translated when necessary. Teachers will be trained on the policy before the start of the school year, when they become familiarized with all other policies.

In the next 90 days, Latham will be expected to develop a plan for training teachers, administrators and other staff on the new policy and best practices for ensuring the wellbeing of students, who may be affected by immigration enforcement actions. The plan will be implemented within five months.Legis

A copy of the resolution will be submitted to the Massachusetts Attorney General and to Lynn’s federal, state, and local legislative representatives.


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

 

Family Engagement Fair at Marshall Middle

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — On Saturday from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Lynn Public Schools will host a free Family Engagement Fair at Marshall Middle School on Brookline Street.

“The goal is to provide encouragement to our families and this important work that they do as parents,” said Tina Hoofnagle, family and community engagement program specialist. “In the past, we’ve had a lot of emphasis on family involvement having parents come in and learn  but family engagement is more trying to work so that families and the schools work together to support the children’s education.”

“This comes from a desire and a dream of (Superintendent) Dr. (Catherine) Latham to think in terms of the Lynn Public Schools hosting a parent university,” she said. “But we don’t have the capacity to do that at this point.”

2 incumbents out in Swampscott

The event is designed to support and encourage parents of elementary-aged students in their parenting role. It will begin with a pancake breakfast and a greeting from Latham.

The program will include several workshops including yoga and relaxation classes, an informational class about keeping children smart on social media, athletic opportunities for Lynn children, how to raise a reader, information about pediatric asthma and prevention, a couponing course, how to shop healthy and save money, and how to protect your child from substance abuse.

Parents will hear from motivational speakers who focus on strengthening partnerships between schools and families.

The event is free to parents of elementary-aged students. Free childcare will be available with activities including yoga, the Northeastern Marine touch tank, and viewing a display from the Friends of Lynn & Nahant Beach.


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte

Committee ponders meaning of ‘sanctuary’

By LEAH DEARBORN

LYNN — The School Committee continued a discussion regarding the concerns of immigrant students on Thursday.

Member Maria Carrasco initiated the conversation at the previous committee meeting, saying she has been approached by a number of students who are worried about U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) entering the schools.

In response, attorney and committee member Jared Nicholson drafted a resolution meant to clarify the law and reassure students.

Nicholson read aloud from the resolution, which stated the Lynn Public Schools’ commitment to providing a safe learning environment.

The resolution reiterated that city schools do not request immigration status information from students.

School attorney John C. Mihos said the resolution doesn’t constitute a policy change, just a restatement of the laws as they already exist.

Carrasco and committee member Donna Coppola both spoke in support of the concept of becoming a “sanctuary school district,” a distinction that Mihos said would only alter the title of the resolution and not its purpose.

“The word ‘sanctuary’ means protection for somebody who feels chased,” said Carrasco, who argued that the word alone does have some impact.

Saugus Rotary up to speed

Member Patricia Capano said there have been no incidents regarding students and immigration enforcement in city schools. She said the resolution is an attempt on the committee’s part to be proactive.

Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham said she spoke with Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett regarding the subject and was told there have been no deportations in the county.

Carrasco disputed that claim, but said she could not ethically provide the identities of the individuals impacted.

A vote to adopt the resolution was tabled in order to bring the topic to a full committee for further discussion.

Leah Dearborn can be reached at ldearborn@itemlive.com.

Classical doesn’t dance around prom safety

By LEAH DEARBORN

LYNN — Parents were briefed Tuesday night at Lynn Classical High School about ways to make prom season a safe season.

The Prom Parent Initiative, which began nearly a decade ago, is aimed at educating parents about underage drinking leading up to and during prom.

“If you can’t keep them safe, you don’t have anything,” said Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham about the importance of student security.

A large portion of the presentation was given by attorney Judy Wayne, who spoke about the Social Host Law that concerns liability.

“Parents beware. You are responsible,” she said.

Wayne said there are just as many consequences from drinking as other intoxicants. Adults who allow underage drinking at home or in a controlled space risk significant fines and jail time, said Wayne, even if they’re just trying to make the experience safer.  

She brought up the case of Saugus couple John and Josephine Penza, who were sentenced to nine months in the Middlesex House of Correction for serving alcohol to minors.

“This is a per se law. It’s non-negotiable,” said Wayne.  

Librarian of Congress checks out Malden

Michelle Lipinski, director of the Northshore Recovery Hospital, also spoke during the program about how substance abuse can affect the adolescent brain.

“Whatever we’re doing, we’re not doing it well enough,” said Lipinski, stressing the importance of honest conversations between youth and their parents or guardians.

Officer Oren Wright of the Lynn Police Department said that every Lynn student will be tested for alcohol before they’re allowed to enter prom.

The Prom Parent Initiative is supported by Girls Inc. of Lynn, North Shore Medical Center, Dr. Latham and former Police Chief Kevin Coppinger.

Parents from Lynn Classical High School and Lynn Tech were given $20 off prom tickets for attending Tuesday’s event. Interested parties can go to a second Prom Parent Initiative scheduled for March 29 at 6 p.m. at Lynn English High School.


Leah Dearborn can be reached at ldearborn@itemlive.com.

Lynn voters being put to the test

(Left) ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
This sign is on the corner of Lynnfield Street and Kernwood Dr.
(Right) PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Pat Burke (adult standing) and Mia Duncan (with sign), of Lynn, at the “Get the Vote Out Rally” for the March 14 vote for two new schools. The meeting was held at the Lynn Teachers Union on Western Avenue.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN After months of campaigning, it all comes down to a vote on Tuesday.

The March 14 special election has pit Protect Our Reservoir – Preserve Pine Grove which opposes the $188.5 million project to build a pair of middle schools against 2 Schools for Lynn, which includes parents, teachers and city officials who say the more than 100-year-old Pickering Middle School should be replaced.

As a powerful nor’easter threatens to shut down the region on Tuesday with more than a foot of snow, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy is considering postponing the election. The city solicitor’s office will consult with the election division of the Massachusetts Secretary of State this morning and make a decision by 5 p.m.

On Friday, Brian McNiff, a spokesman for Secretary of State William Galvin, said if the city wants to reschedule the vote due to inclement weather, they would have to appear before a judge this morning to make the request.

If approved by voters, the Pickering on Conomo Avenue would be replaced with a school on Parkland Avenue near the Pine Grove Cemetery that would house 652 students. A larger second school for 1,008 students would be built on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

Property owners will be responsible for an estimated $91.4 million or 51.5 percent of the total $188.5 million project cost. The city said the average homeowner will pay an additional $200 in taxes per year for 25 years. The rest of the cost will be paid for by the Massachusetts School Building Authority, a quasi-public agency that funds school construction.

Voters will be asked two questions: whether the city should borrow the money to build the schools and a second question on whether taxpayers are willing to exempt the plan from Proposition 2 ½.

On one side are the proponents who say every child who attends a middle school should have the same opportunity as every other child. They point to the gleaming Thurgood Marshall Middle School that opened last year which offers its students an ideal place to learn with lots of natural light, studios for art, music and television production, science labs and all the modern tools to learn home economics.

On the opposing side are some Pine Hill residents who say when they purchased their homes they expected their nearest neighbors to be in the graveyard, not school children and the traffic that comes with it. They say Parkland is not only the wrong site, but the project is too expensive and the city must protect the nearby reservoir.

Gary Welch, a member of the opposition, said he favors a plan that would build the West Lynn school first at the McManus site, move the Pickering students to the new facility, demolish the current Pickering School and build the new school at the Pickering site.

Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham has been equally passionate in noting the building committee examined more than a dozen sites and concluded Parkland Avenue makes the most sense.

While people have suggested a parcel on Federal Street near the fire station, it is contaminated land, while another site at Magnolia Avenue is in a floodplain and has a water line, Latham said. The other location suggested at Union Hospital is not owned by the city and would exacerbate traffic on Lynnfield Street.

At press time, each group was planning to hold events on the weekend before the vote.

The 2 Schools for Lynn group scheduled a “Get Out the Vote Rally” on Saturday at the  Lynn Teachers Union. Among those expected to attend were state Rep. and City Councilor-at-Large Daniel Cahill, Rep. Brendan Crighton, City Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre, Ward 1 City Councilor Wayne Lozzi, School Committee members Maria Carrasco, John Ford, Lorraine Gately and Jared Nicholson.

Protect Our Reservoir – Preserve Pine Grove planned a walk-through of the Parkland Avenue site on Sunday at B Street Place and Basse Road.

The polls open at 7 a.m. and will close at 8 p.m.


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tigrillo@itemlive.com.

Current system not sustainable, Latham says

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Edward Calnan of the Pickering School Building Committee, Inspectional Services Department Director Michael Donovan and Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham make the case for new schools.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN If voters reject the ballot initiative on Tuesday to build a pair of new middle schools, students face the possibility of split sessions, according to the superintendent.

“If we don’t build these schools, our sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders will be in double sessions in a very short period of time, possibly within two years,” said Dr. Catherine Latham.

Today, 3,100 students attend the city’s three middle schools. By 2020, enrollment is expected to soar by 20 percent, adding another 600 students to the mix.

“Our schools cannot sustain that many students,” she said. Under double sessions, one group of students would attend classes from 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. while the next group would arrive at 1 p.m. and go until 5:30 p.m., she said.

In an interview with The Item’s editorial board on Thursday, Latham, Michael Donovan, Inspectional Services Department director, Edward Calnan, member of the Pickering Middle School Building Committee, and Thomas Iarrobino, secretary of the Lynn School Committee, made the case for the $188.5 million project.

If approved, a 652-student school would be built near the Pine Grove Cemetery and Breeds Pond Reservoir on Parkland Avenue. A second one to serve 1,008 students would be constructed on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

The new schools will add an additional $200 to the average tax bill for a single-family home each year for the next 25 years.

We’re not anti-education, ‘no’-voters say

Calnan said they explored more than a dozen potential sites, but they were dropped due to a variety of issues. Some were in a flood zone or marsh land, others had hazardous waste that precluded school construction. A site at Magnolia Street would boost building costs by as much as $800,000 to move a water pipe that serves Swampscott and Marblehead, officials said.

A vacant parcel on Rockdale Avenue and Verona Street was examined, but the committee found the tight residential neighborhood was difficult to access and is privately-owned. They also looked at General Electric Co. properties on Bennett Street and on Elmwood Avenue. But those were rejected because of environmental concerns, they said.

Latham said all of the city’s middle school students should have the same experience as those attending the new $67 million Thurgood Marshall Middle School.

Last spring, the 181,847-square-foot school opened for more than 1,000 students. The three buildings are divided by clusters, each distinguished by a different color. In addition to an outdoor courtyard, lots of natural light, the soundproof classrooms block any hint of the commuter rail trains that run past the rear of the school and the sounds of musical instruments from several music classes.  

In addition, there are suites for special education and art. The school boasts computer rooms complete with Apple computers. It contains home economics rooms, a woodworking shop, a television production studio and a health center.

Iarrobino, who serves as the liaison between the schools and the School Committee, said any discussion of school must include a link to the local economy.

“If folks are contemplating opening a business in Lynn, the first thing they will ask about is where will their employees attend school and what are the schools like,” he said. “We have an obligation to them and they have a right to the best quality education that is available to them, not just in the suburbs, but right here in an urban district.”  


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Lynn Woods elementary tapped out

By LEAH DEARBORN

LYNN At Lynn Woods Elementary School, all drinking fountains have been temporarily shut off following an extensive series of voluntary copper and lead tests in city schools.

Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham said bottled water has been supplied to students at the school and letters were sent home to parents.

Michael Donovan, director of the Inspectional Services Department (ISD), said a plumber has been hired and the fixtures at Lynn Woods will hopefully be back up and running by the end of next week.

Donovan said that all possible drinking sources were tested at every school in the city, including water fountains, kitchen equipment and sinks — over 2,000 samples taken from 695 taps.

Of the fixtures, roughy 2 percent were found to be above acceptable lead or copper limits.

Across the board, 88 fixtures tested high for lead and 19 were beyond acceptable levels for copper. Donovan said compromised fixtures will be replaced or have their supply lines changed.

“Thank you for being proactive,” said School Committee member Patricia Capano told Donovan on Thursday.

Lynn mayor offers tax cuts to seniors

Although the drinking water levels are regularly monitored, the latest testing marked the first time all of the fixtures in the district were checked at once, said Donovan.  

Each fixture was sampled twice by a third party inspection service with the testing paid for by the state, said Donovan.  

On April 26, 2016, Gov. Charlie Baker and State Treasurer Deb Goldberg announced that $2 million from the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust would fund efforts to help public schools test for lead and copper in drinking water.

If copper levels are higher than 1,300 micrograms per liter, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends a school take action to determine the source, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.  

For lead, MassDEP lists the water action level at 15 parts per billion. Lead typically enters the water supply through lead pipes or plumbing that contains lead parts or solder.


Leah Dearborn can be reached at ldearborn@itemlive.com.

Mayor, super make case for new schools

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham talks to a crowded room at Stadium Condominiums in Lynn.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy is taking no chances when it comes to passing a controversial ballot question to fund a pair of new middle schools.

On Wednesday night, the mayor and her City Hall team made the case for the $188.5 million project to more than three dozen seniors who packed the recreation room at the Stadium Condominiums.

“Right now, the library at Pickering consists of two rolling carts with books and there are no science labs,” Kennedy said. “When you contrast that with what we see at the new Thurgood Marshall Middle School, the kids are simply not getting the same educational experience.”

In a passionate plea, Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham said every child who attends a middle school should have the same opportunity as every other child.

“Our beautiful new Marshall has cooking, sewing, wood shop, a TV studio, three-dimensional art rooms, music rooms and they should be available to everyone in Lynn,” she said.

Latham said there is lots of misinformation about the project. The city looked at more than a dozen sites, she said.

“We’ve heard people suggest a site on Federal Street near the fire station,” she said. “But it’s contaminated land and that is not a possibility. Magnolia Avenue has flood plains and an MWRA water line. Some have told us to use the Union Hospital site; we don’t own it.”  

The building committee also considered renovating the existing Pickering and that would cost $44 million without any state reimbursement, Latham said.

If approved by voters on March 14, the Pickering Middle School on Conomo Avenue would be replaced with a school on Parkland Avenue near the Pine Grove Cemetery and Breeds Pond Reservoir that would house 652 students, while a larger school for 1,008 students would be built on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

Residents will be responsible for an estimated $91.4 million or 51.5 percent of the total $188.5 million project cost. The city said the average homeowner will pay an additional $200 in taxes per year for 25 years. The rest of the cost will be picked up by the  Massachusetts School Building Authority, a quasi-public agency that funds school construction.

But Donald Castle, a Stadium unit owner and founder of the Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, a grassroots organization that opposes the Parkland Avenue school site, urged the crowd to vote no.

“Your taxes will go up above and beyond the legal limit for 25 years,” he said. “The land should be preserved for a cemetery. We ask the city to protect our cemetery and protect our reservoir.”

James Lamanna, the city’s assistant city solicitor, said the school will use about a dozen acres of the 44-acre site. The rest, he said, will be preserved for cemetery expansion. In addition, he said, the project will fund a $1 million road and bridge that the Cemetery Commission could not afford. Without the school, the land could not be accessed for new graveyards.

City Council President Darren Cyr said he favors construction of the two schools.

“No matter where kids live in Lynn, they should have the same opportunities as kids get in Swampscott, Marblehead and Lynnfield,” he said. “Every one of us has a chance to change kids’ lives and by voting yes on March 14, you will give those kids a chance that they will not get otherwise.”

School Committee member Lorraine Gately said a yes vote is essential for the city’s children.

“If we don’t support this, our future is larger class sizes and double sessions,” she said.

Moving on time in Lynn


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Holocaust survivor hands down lessons

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
The “Traces to Remember” assembly at Lynn City Hall was filled with students from several schools.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — When Saul Dreier was 14 years old, he and his family were seized by the Nazis from their home in Krakow, Poland and herded into a concentration camp.

“My parents were burned in either Treblinka, Majdanek or Belzec, I don’t know which one,” he said, referring to death camps established by Adolf Hitler in occupied Poland. “The rest of my family was burned in Auschwitz, the largest death camp where more than 1 million Jews lost their lives.”

His parents, sister, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, 30 relatives in total, perished. Miraculously, Dreier survived.

Dreier spoke of his memories to a hushed crowd of high school students at the Lynn Memorial Auditorium on Thursday. The event, “Traces to Remember,” was held to keep alive the testimony of Holocaust victims and survivors. His visit to Lynn came on International Holocaust Remembrance Day and was sponsored by the Global Embassy of Activists for Peace, a nonprofit founded by the international pacifist, William Soto Santiago.

“I was at the worst camp you can even imagine,” he said. “I was tortured, beaten and nearly shot several times simply because I was a Jew.”

Eventually, Dreier was sent to work at Oskar Schindler’s factory repairing airplane radiators. Steven Spielberg would later direct the film “Schindler’s List,” about the man who saved the lives of more than 1,100 Jews during the Holocaust.

“The factory was bombed and I was wounded but I survived,” he said. “Eventually, we were liberated and I saw an American soldier and the Red Cross and they asked me how I survived. I don’t know, I just thank God.”

In 1949, Dreier arrived in New York, married another survivor, Clara, in 1957 and settled in Coney Island. Since then, he has been telling audiences of his experience during the war.

Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham said the Holocaust represents a teachable moment.

“There is no better example of what can happen when respect for human life and dignity is lost,” she said. “The horror of the Holocaust resulted in the deaths of 11 million people … To get a sense of how many 11 million is, 6 million, the number of Jewish people who died, is the population of Massachusetts and the other 5 million represent the populations of Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.”

Lynn teen sings his way from Tech to TV


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

LaPierre crosses the line

Lynn City Councilor at large Brian LaPierre knows how to represent unions. He knows how to win elections and, if Tuesday’s council committee meeting is any indication, he knows how to time travel.

For a few minutes during the discussion on spending money to build new public middle schools Tuesday evening, LaPierre took the council and its audience back to the 1950s when U.S. Sen. Joe McCarthy carved up reputations under the guise of asking important, intelligent questions.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and School Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham sat mere feet away from LaPierre as he directed these words to city attorney James Lamanna:

“There has been a rumor going around that somehow, some way, if you pass a bond of this nature, that the mayor or superintendent benefit monetarily (from) a bond like this. That is what people are asking. Does anyone in the city benefit from this bond being passed?”

In reply, Lamanna said Lynn students will benefit from the bond’s passage. “No salary increase will occur as a result of this bond.”

Reached by phone on Thursday, LaPierre said he subsequently apologized to Kennedy and Latham for his question. When asked to explain his “People are asking” remark, the councilor said three people brought the question to his attention. “I do regret asking it. I’m trying to close the books on it,” he said.

LaPierre probably could have asked a dozen probing and pertinent questions about the middle school project during Tuesday’s meeting. But the one that made the final cut for his choice of questions sounded like long-dead Joe McCarthy could have written it himself.

LaPierre is an educated and popular man capable of summarizing his position on issues and stating that position clearly. So why did he sling mud in the direction of two people who have all but staked their reputations on the construction of new middle schools?

Is there any reasonable-minded person, including Brian LaPierre, who thinks even for a minute that Judy Kennedy and Cathie Latham would approach their fellow Lynn residents with a tax-increase proposal that included a boost in their salaries?

Kennedy’s political future rests in part on how voters view the debt exclusion question. Latham is the architect and prime mover of the plan to get Marshall Middle School built. Her effort to repeat that success on behalf of Lynn’s students and future generations of students did not deserve to be tainted by LaPierre’s tawdry questioning.

Brian LaPierre is certainly aware of how much money Kennedy and the superintendent earn. Yet he publicly posed a question on Tuesday that sounded like, “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?”

LaPierre made sure Lamanna and anyone else listening knew he had researched the City Charter in an attempt to answer his own question. That statement was, at best, a clumsy effort by LaPierre to distance himself from the question. The notion that LaPierre — a man skilled in reading detailed labor contracts — does not have a working knowledge — if not a detailed knowledge — of the charter is preposterous.

LaPierre did himself a disservice as an elected city official and as a Lynn resident with his brief but pointed interrogation on Tuesday. In addition to the mayor and the superintendent, he also owes city residents an apology and, assuming he is running for reelection, he will have to wait until the fall to find out if they accept it.

School committee freezes snow parking debate

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — The School Committee voted to keep the city’s schoolyards open for emergency snow parking for the remainder of the year.

The panel will readdress the issue next year and make changes to its policy, depending on how the season goes.

The issue was raised earlier this month when parking during snow emergencies was limited to the city’s middle and high schools. In the past, parking has been allowed at some, but not all, elementary schools.

During Winter Storm Helena in early January, city councilors and members of the school committee heard from dozens of residents who were left without a place to park. A few councilors took a stand and opened the chains blocking off the lots.

During a school committee meeting following the storm, city attorney James Lamanna said in 2013 the school committee delegated its authority to determine which school lots are open and which are closed during a snow emergency to the city’s inspectional services director, Michael Donovan.

Donovan reminded committee members that vehicles were not removed from the lots the morning following many storms and, in 2015, the panel was displeased when schools could not open two days after a major snowfall.

“We felt that the need for the parking space overshadowed any potential problem,” said Committee Member John Ford. “Based on how it goes this year, we agreed to revisit it and see about next year. If it’s disastrous, we will have to come up with another plan or close the school yards again.”

Ford said city councilors are discussing a solution for next year that includes filing a parking application and using a car tag. Vehicle owners who violate the terms and leave their car in the lot after the designated parking hours will be ticketed, towed and have their parking privileges revoked.

The committee also voted on an updated job posting for a special education administrator  drafted by Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham.

Latham said she felt strongly that, though six candidates had been interviewed, they had not found the right fit for the job. Latham said none of the candidates had the district-wide experience in a large school system or strong curriculum background that she deemed necessary prerequisites.

The updated posting lists a salary starting at $111,000 with increments in accordance with the administrator’s contract, rather than listing a range of $115,000 to $128,000 based on education and experience.

A job description above the list of required qualifications was also removed from the listing.

Latham said she hopes to see the position filled by July 1.

Remembering America’s girl


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte

Search for special ed administrator continues

By ADAM SWIFT

LYNN There will be a delay in bringing a new special education administrator to the schools.

Thursday night, the Lynn School Committee unanimously approved Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham’s recommendation to repost the position.

“I feel strongly that we have not yet interviewed the candidate we need,” said Latham. “We need someone with district-level experience.”

Latham said six candidates were in the running for the position, with resumes reviewed, interviews conducted and references called.

However, she said none of the candidates had the kind of district-wide experience in a large school system that she feels is necessary to succeed in Lynn.

The school committee has final say on the position and could have gone ahead to appoint a candidate without a recommendation from the superintendent. But the board agreed to repost the position and have Latham present the qualifications she would like to see from candidates to the committee.

In addition to district-wide experience, Latham said she would like to see someone who has a strong curriculum background.

“I hope to have someone in place by July 1,” she said.

Lynn art students show off in Boston

The position will pay about $110,000, but could vary slightly based on experience and education, committee member Jared Nicholson said. He said the person hired would oversee all of the special education services in the Lynn Public Schools.

Prior to the Thursday meeting, members of the school committee unanimously put forward two names for the superintendent’s consideration, Ellen Kelleher-Rojas and Lesia Diego. John Ford, a school committee member, also submitted a third name, Jeffrey Lappin.

But on Thursday night, the members agreed that they should select someone who has Latham’s trust and recommendation.

“On the reposting, I would like to see who is out there,” said committee member Lorraine Gately.

Lynn Rotary Club plays defining role

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Coco Sunrez and Jessica Jewkes take a guess at Superintendent Catherine Latham’s question on how many third-graders there are in Lynn during the dictionary distribution.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — More than 1,300 third-graders in the city were given new dictionaries Wednesday morning as part of Lynn Rotary Clubs Dictionary Project.

The students at Sewell-Anderson Elementary School immediately recognized the books’ value.

“I think it’s pretty cool,” said Jessica Jewkes, 8. “I do have problems writing at my house. It’s loud and my mom has to help me with a lot of words.”

Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham assisted club members in the distribution at Sewell-Anderson, which was just one of 19 of the city’s public schools to benefit from the project.

She offered a brief lesson on how tamo search for a word, its part of speech and meaning. The back of each dictionary includes additional information, including a list of U.S presidents and states, and sign language and braille charts.

“We have many high school students who still have the dictionaries they got in the third grade,” Latham told the students.

Lynn council has new leaders for new year

“The children love these,” said Angela Maggs, a third grade teacher at the school. “We will use them as a tool in the classroom. There are a lot of fun things in the back they can learn about. They’ve already shown me there are multiplication tables.”

The Lynn Rotary Club has been participating in the project as part of an international program for more than a decade. Equitable Bank, an entity that formed when Equitable Cooperative Bank and Weymouth Bank merged in 2016, has been the financial sponsor of the project for six years.

President Don Smith said the bank spends about $3,000 each year on the dictionaries.

Rotarians present them to classrooms across the city at 9 a.m., said Rotary Club President Ray Bastarache, who chooses to distribute at Sewell-Anderson because he has a personal connection to the school.

“I was the principal of this school from 1991 to 2001,” Bastarache said. “I’ve been in this room many times.

“We always emphasize to the students that they own the book — we tell them they can bring them home,” he said. “It’s one of the only occasions in the public school (system) they are given their own book. We make the assumption everyone has access to technology at home, but not everybody does. They can’t all just do a Google search when they don’t know a word.”


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

Partnering to help homeless youth

By THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN — Local school superintendents are turning to homelessness prevention advocates to help high school-age students who need to stabilize their lives after they graduate.

Lynn School Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham and Saugus Superintendent David DeRuosi Jr. discussed the problems arising from the lack of realization among youth that they are actually homeless.

“Students think that because they have a place to stay tonight at a friend’s house that they aren’t homeless. They don’t consider couch surfing an issue or sign of homelessness and, therefore, don’t report,” Latham said.

Latham and DeRuosi outlined their concerns in a meeting last week with North Shore Housing Advocacy Group (NSHAG) members, including NSHAG co-chair and state Rep. Brendan Crighton.

“Hearing these accounts and these stories from the superintendents and the people on the front line in the agencies that deal with this issue are exactly what I need be effective at my job on Beacon Hill,” Crighton told the superintendents and about 40 NSHAG members.

DeRuosi said school officials have a very limited amount of time that they can identify and assist students affected by homelessness because school-based assistance is available only while the student is in school.

“Once they graduate, we have no way of assisting them,” DeRuosi said.

$1.5M partnership with Lynn Community Health

Linn Torto, executive director of the Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness (ICHH), said agencies and communities can combine resources to do a better job helping homeless youth and adults. She said assistance must be tailored to the homeless individual or family.  

NSHAG administers the state’s funding for homelessness prevention in Essex County and has maintained its focus on assisting each city and town evenly. To date, NSHAG has assisted 33 individuals and families and 29 youth with funding related to housing prevention, startup costs or arrearages.  

North Shore Community Action Program Executive Director Laura McNeil said pooling resources to fight homelessness provides participating NSHAG agencies with “new resources and information about services that could help their clients.”

“Each agency brings something to the table that could assist a family or individual,” she said.

Anyone interested in learning more about programs or funding for homeless youth, individuals or young families offered by NSHAG are directed to contact Sara Johnson at LHAND’s Family Success Center at (339) 883-2342.


Thor Jourgensen can be reached at tjourgensen@itemlive.com.

‘Stories of resiliency begin with bad news’

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Jason Jimenez, a speaker at Stop the Violence Lynn, sits down in front of the podium while talking to the 6 and 7th graders in attendance. 

By ADAM SWIFT

LYNN — Resiliency.

It’s something 2009 Lynn English graduate Brian Castellanos knows a lot about, and on Wednesday, he was one of a handful of speakers who brought a message of resiliency to sixth- and seventh-graders at a Stop the Violence Lynn program held at City Hall.

“This is a room full of young people with hopes and dreams,” said Castellanos. “I was once in those shoes and I remember people talking to me at the middle school.”

From the outside, Castellanos is someone who has achieved those hopes and dreams, a successful high school and college football player who has earned bachelor’s and a master’s degree in criminal justice and is planning on earning his doctorate.

But as he told the middle schoolers during an emotional 15-minute talk, the road to his hopes and dreams has been anything but smooth.

“Stories of resiliency begin with bad news, tragedy and pain,” Castellanos said.

Castellanos grew up on Chatham Street as the youngest of 12 children in a poor family. Castellanos’ mother passed away when he was a young child. The family finances became desperate after another change in the family’s dynamics when he was a freshman in high school. His father was subsequently rarely home, having to work two jobs to support his children. Castellanos lived with his brother, Eddie, until Eddie died of lymphoma in Castellanos’ senior year.

“On August 25, 2008, I received a call from my father at 3 a.m. with a message that I will never forget,” said Castellanos. “I had to head to the hospital where my brother was staying to say my goodbyes … I was able to speak to him one last time and tell him that I love him.”

Castellanos said the moment his brother took his last breath will be forever ingrained in his soul.

“I’d never seen my father cry before,” he said. “This was the time my heart was introduced to true pain.”

Unfortunately for Castellanos, the death of his brother was not the end of his hardships. During his senior year, he spent time living in his car, showering at friends’ houses.

“My desire to never give up was born in that car,” he said.

For the senior, college seemed out of reach, but a school counselor encouraged him to apply. He attended Westfield State College for a year, making high grades, but a physical altercation with another student led to him being kicked out of the school.

A coach at Framingham State University was willing to give Castellanos another chance, and he made the most of it.

“I was able to rebuild my character and rebuild myself on and off the field,” he said. But like many experiences in life, Castellanos said the experience was short-lived.

“Let me tell you something,” he said. “Life is going to hit you in the mouth. It may be today, tomorrow, a week from now, a month from now. The key is to never give up.”

And Castellanos never gave up, even after a serious car accident his senior year of college left him with broken bones and a doctor who said he might never walk again. Three months later, he jogged back into that doctor’s office with a large smile on his face.

“My mission in life is to teach young people that despite what hardships you go through, anything is possible,” said Castellanos. “Just because it might look impossible, it doesn’t mean you can’t persevere through it. I’m an example of a person whose life was engineered for failure, but yet I found a way to survive. My biggest reward is to be able to share my life story with you today in hopes I reach one person. Never be discouraged, never hold back, and most importantly, never give up.”

Jason Jimenez (who got big cheers when Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham mentioned he’s worked with A$AP Rocky and Whiz Khalifa) told the students about his four keys to success.

To achieve success, Jimenez encouraged the students to stay busy, hang out with people you want to be like when you grow up, be a mentor and to pick five things they want to be or achieve when they grow up.

Jimenez, who grew up near the Lynn Common, has dedicated his life to helping Lynn youth as a football coach at Lynn Classical and as tour director for the Music Motivates Me Tour.

“If you believe and work hard at something now, you can accomplish it,” Jimenez said.

Carolina Trujillo, Essex Media Group’s community relations director and director of La Voz, the North Shore’s new Spanish-language newspaper, spoke about moving to the Boston area from Colombia and struggling to find a job.

“I was a woman, a minority, an immigrant, English was my second language and I had a degree that was not from this country,” Trujillo said. “I felt like everything was against me.”

But instead of looking at the negatives, Trujillo was inspired (with some tough words of encouragement from her mother) to move forward and achieve her piece of the American dream.

“I can do whatever I want, because I am the architect of my own life, and I encourage you to do the same,” she said

The Stop the Violence Lynn Committee originally formed to give the city’s youth an alternative to violence. The group has also organized peace walks and a yearly speaker series that brought U.S Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz to Lynn.


Adam Swift can be reached at aswift@itemlive.com.

School suspension policy raises concerns in Lynn

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham
 

By LEAH DEARBORN

LYNN — City schools are taking a closer look at how discipline is doled out.

At Thursday night’s school committee meeting, several members raised concerns about how the district’s suspension policy is applied.

Committee member Maria Carrasco asked whether Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham could provide more information regarding the discipline code.

Carrasco specifically wanted to know more about suspension procedures related to the youngest students and those with behavioral problems. She also expressed a fear that the same students who are suspended regularly in grammar school are more likely to drop out in later grades.  

Deputy Superintendent Dr. Patrick Tutwiler said that suspension rates have been dropping across city schools and cited statistics submitted to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

According to Tutwiler, Lynn English High School had a 30 percent suspension rate three years ago; it is now 18 percent. Lynn Tech and Classical High School also both saw drops in suspension rates over the same period.

Tutwiler said he believes those drops have a lot to do with schools embracing the spirit of a recently passed law that relegates suspension to a last resort as a disciplinary measure.

“In my humble opinion, we’re headed in the right direction,” said Tutwiler.

Committee member Jared Nicholson agreed that the downward trend in suspensions points to movement in the right direction, but questioned why there was disparity in the numbers across schools if suspension policies were being implemented consistently.

Another issue discussed during the meeting was the lack of space for in-school suspension programs at some of the facilities, notably at English High School.

Carrasco and member John Ford Jr. both said students see out-of-school suspensions as a vacation and are less prone to take the punishment seriously.

“Kids shouldn’t be punished because we don’t have the space. We need to find it for those kids,” said committee Vice-Chair Patricia Capano.

Latham said she would work with school principals to carve out some space. She also said she would come up with a report on minority suspension data for the next meeting.

Question 2: 2 answers

Kathy Paul, with Mass. Senior Action, leaves the podium after speaking against Partners Healthcare during a rally at Union Hospital, after the company contributed $100,000 to expand charter schools. Participants at the rally oppose the ballot initiative to expand charter schools. (Item photo by Owen O’Rourke)

By Gayla Cawley

LYNN–Opponents of a ballot initiative to lift the state’s cap on charter schools argue that the schools are a drain on funding from traditional public education, while proponents say expansion will provide more opportunity for parents and their children.

When voters go to the polls on Nov. 8, their ballots will feature Question 2, which, if passed, will authorize up to 12 new charter schools or enrollment expansions in existing charter schools annually by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. Priority would be given to applicants who seek to open a charter school in public school districts performing in the bottom 25 percent. If it doesn’t pass, the existing charter school cap will be maintained.

A WBUR poll released last week, which surveyed likely Massachusetts voters, showed 52 percent oppose the ballot initiative, up from 48 percent last month. Support is at 41 percent, roughly the same as last month.

State Rep. and City Council President Daniel Cahill (D-Lynn) said charter schools are a drain on public schools. Last spring, the City Council unanimously approved a resolution opposing the lifting of the cap on charter schools, arguing that the city can’t afford it.

With the resolution, the council estimated that more than $17 million of Lynn’s budget for its public schools is being diverted to charters, and that public schools are losing more than $408 million to charter schools statewide.

Over the last three years in Lynn, Cahill said, more than 100 students have left charter schools to come back to traditional public schools.

“Charter schools will tell you that they have a 100 percent graduation rate and they have a 0 percent dropout rate,” Cahill said. “Well, isn’t that confusing? Isn’t that confusing when 100 plus kids leave? Well, of course you have those statistics and they’re lies. We’re left in the public schools to pick up the pieces for those students and educate them at a loss. All we’re asking for is a level playing field. That’s all we’re asking for and we’re not getting it, and until we get that, we can’t afford any more charter schools.”

But Caleb Dolan, executive director of KIPP Massachusetts, said KIPP Academy in Lynn, the city’s only charter school, has 1,000 students on its wait list, made up of families who have made the choice to attend the school and should have the ability to do so.

“There’s nobody who wouldn’t want more choice for their own child,” Dolan said. “I think it’s a pretty simple proposition for us that this helps give families the choices they want and deserve.”

Cahill joined others opposing the ballot initiative including Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre, state Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) and Brant Duncan, president of the Lynn Teachers Union, last week for a “No on 2” and “Save Union Hospital” rally at Union Hospital to denounce a $100,000 contribution from Partners HealthCare to the “Yes on 2” campaign, or Great Schools Massachusetts, a staunch supporter of charter school expansion.

Officials questioned why Partners is donating to the charter school initiative when they have argued that they can no longer financially support Union Hospital.

Over the summer, the Public Health Council of the state Department of Public Health unanimously approved a $180 million expansion of North Shore Medical Center that will close Union and move the beds to a new Salem campus in 2019. The medical facilities in Lynn and Salem are part of Partners HealthCare.

“What a shame,” said LaPierre of the donation. “You know, I call it educational malpractice because what they’re doing is quite simply, they’re following all of the dark money patterns that we’ve seen throughout this campaign.”

Rich Copp, a spokesperson for Partners HealthCare said the company supports a wide range of efforts that create educational and economic opportunity in all of the communities it serves.

“We have committed hundreds of thousands of dollars to support students in the Lynn Public School system through school-based health services, job training and summer jobs,” Copp said. “These investments in public education help ensure that the students of today have the skills and training needed to care for the patients of tomorrow. Our one-time contribution to the ballot initiative is aimed at creating even more educational opportunity and choice for young people.”

On Sunday, the “No on 2” campaign rallied near Gov. Charlie Baker’s Swampscott home on Monument Avenue. Baker is a supporter of the ballot initiative and did not make an appearance for the rally.

“Gov. Baker is proud to be part of a broad and bipartisan coalition of elected leaders, educators and families that supports expanding access to high quality public education for all children by lifting the cap on public charter schools in Massachusetts,” said William Pitman, his press secretary, in an email.

Natasha Megie-Maddrey, a Lynn resident and 2015 School Committee candidate, said two of her children attend KIPP. Her daughter attends private school, but previously attended the charter school, and although her youngest son goes to Cobbet Elementary School, she plans on sending him to KIPP next year when he reaches fifth grade.

Megie-Maddrey said that the communication is totally different at charter schools. She likes the longer school days and feels that public schools failed one of her sons. She said he also went to Cobbet from grades K to 4 and when he reached KIPP in fifth grade, he was only at a first grade reading level.

She said her son has special needs and has an individualized education program. He is now in the eighth grade and is reading at a seventh grade level, which Megie-Maddrey attributes to his charter school education.

“Lifting the cap will give the 33,000 kids that on the waiting list (statewide) hope so they too can have options and a great education,” she said. “I want other people to have the opportunity I’ve had.”

But Lynn public school educators are not swayed, including Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham.

Latham said the most common objection involves funding. If a student leaves the traditional public school system to go to charter schools, state funding follows that student. Another issue, she argued, is to gain support for charter schools, advocates have repeatedly attempted to demean the reputation and destroy public confidence in local public schools.

Despite standardized test scores that may be a bit lower than suburban communities, which may qualify Lynn as a district that would receive new charter schools, Latham said, “we educate all, turn away none, have a spectacular teaching and support staff and meet the needs of all of our students.”

“I would guarantee that the experiences and the educational opportunities provided to all of our students, including the over 300 who have returned to us from charter schools in the past five years, far surpass any that may be available in any charter school in the Commonwealth,” Latham said.

Sheila O’Neil, a teacher at Shoemaker Elementary School, opposes the ballot initiative and said that the funding that goes towards charter schools could be better spent on programming. At Lynn English High School, she said, some Advanced Placement (AP) classes have been cut.

“If this passes, I could see schools closing,” she said. “Five years down the line, I could see us with 40 kids in a class.”


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley

 

Walking their way to fitness in Lynn

Adam Fila, Matthew Phelan and Brock Hogan walk from the entrance to Lynn Woods Reservation to the Lynn Woods Elementary School on Wednesday. Item photo by Owen O’Rourke.

By Leah Dearborn

LYNN — Students looked both ways on Lynn streets for the 20th International Walk to School Day on Wednesday.

Lynn Woods Elementary students in grades K through 5 gathered at the entrance to Lynn Woods Reservation on Great Woods Road for the event, which began through the Partnership for a Walkable America as a campaign to raise awareness for more walkable communities.

“I think it’s awesome that they do this,” said parent Kelly Landano, who sees walking to school together as a good way for students to socialize and make friends.

Principal Ellen Fritz said that in addition to fostering a sense of community, walking to school encourages healthy habits and reduces traffic congestion around the school, which is located on a dead-end street.

For several walkers, the morning stroll to Trevett Avenue marked their first time taking a method of transport other than a vehicle.

Ramon Abreu and daughter Mia, 7, like to exercise but usually drive to school. Ramon Abreu said he wouldn’t mind walking more often in the nice weather, but that winter presents a barrier to getting out on foot safely.    

“Every community faces its challenges, whether urban or rural. It’s just finding what works for that specific school,” said Keith Doty, marketing coordinator with the Safe Routes to School, an agency for walking and biking activities.

Students were instructed to always stop at the end of a street and to only walk on the sidewalk.

Fifth-graders were put in charge of keeping the group organized. As an incentive, the class with the most participating walkers was awarded extra gym time.

Sewell-Anderson Elementary and Sisson Elementary held their own Walk to School Day events, with the latter attended by Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham. Shannon Murphy represented the mayor’s office on the Lynn Woods walk.

Kathe Landergan, a coordinator with Safe Routes, said that although Walk to School Day is an annual event, some schools hold organized weekly walks as well.

Lynn Woods students walk every Tuesday and Thursday, and Sewell-Anderson students walk on Wednesdays.

Building committee prefers two-school option

Lynn Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham talks at the new Pickering Middle School Meeting at Lynn City Hall on Tuesday. Item Photo by Owen O’Rourke

By Adam Swift

LYNN — The public can get a close-up look on Wednesday, Sept. 14 at the city’s two-school approach to replacing the aging Pickering Middle School.

The 7 p.m. meeting at the Thurgood Marshall Middle School follows up on a unanimous vote by the Pickering Middle School Building Committee Tuesday to support an option to build two new middle schools to replace Pickering. One school would house 652 students near Breed’s Pond Reservoir, while a larger school for 1,008 students would be built on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

This preferred school building option will be submitted to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) by Sept. 29. But it’s still a long road before the shovels hit the ground at either site.

The submission will go through a review process with the MSBA voting in November on possible approval for project funding.

Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham said she is grateful for the role the MSBA played in helping finance the Marshall Middle School.

At this time, it is unclear how much of the cost of two new buildings the MSBA could pick up for the city.

While estimated costs for the schools are still in the early stages, at Tuesday’s meeting Gene Raymond of Raymond Design Costs put forward an initial price tag of $83 million for the project.

Also on the table were options for two schools with reduced square footage as well as some programming reductions, as well as a plan where two schools would share some central services, such as a gym and cafeteria, on a single site.

With the extent of a possible MSBA contribution unclear at this time, Latham said the city should move forward with the full programming at two new schools.

“We should lay it all out there and see where the chips fall,” said Latham.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said that none of the plans set forward to address the middle school needs were overly ostentatious.

“We are a land poor city and we are trying to accommodate almost 1,700 middle school students,” she said.


Adam Swift can be reached at aswift@itemlive.com.

Lynn Police Academy graduates summer class

Lynn Police Officer Ryan McDermott, left, Cadet Noah Corbishley, center, and Officer Mark Lee at graduation last week. Item Photo by Bridget Turcotte

By Bridget Turcotte

LYNN — The Lynn Summer Police Academy graduated its tenth class last week.

“Most of their peers spent the last six weeks at the beach, at the pool, sleeping until noon,” said Officer Mark Lee. “Not this group. These are 47 of the most committed students in the city of Lynn.”

The free academy is broken up into classroom time and hands-on activities with lectures by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Lynn Police Department. It’s intended to offer teenagers interested in law enforcement a real-life policing experience.

More than 90 teens, age 13 to 18, applied this year and 60 were chosen to participate, though several dropped out.

The academy is paid for by the city and organized by Student Resource Officers Bob Hogan, Ryan McDermott and Lee.

In the past six weeks, the students, or cadets, learned about Lynn’s domestic violence unit, gang unit, drug task force and identification unit. The crime scene reconstruction unit created a mockup of a scene and challenged the participants to act as detectives and solve the crime.

The cadets went on field trips and learned from agencies that don’t typically offer such services, McDermott said. A trip to the State House, Gillette Stadium, both Lynn courthouses, Middleton House of Corrections, and a ride on a State Police boat were just a few of the group’s adventures.

Graduate Jaydin DeArco has completed the academy two years in a row. He said it’s not a summer program teens should join just to have something to do.

“This academy serves a far greater purpose than that,” DeArco said. “It taught us our three core values that are on the back of our shirts: community, leadership and integrity. Those values must be firmly established and instilled in every cadet graduating this academy.”

At Thursday’s ceremony, awards were given to the program’s top performers. Cadet Jacquelyn Ramirez performed “God Bless America” on the violin after securing the Outstanding Cadet Award. Each teen went home with a certificate for completing the program and certification in CPR and First Aid.

“Six weeks ago we entered this beautiful building as strangers,” Lee said. “Today we leave with a bond that can’t be broken.”

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy concurred.

“I see the physical difference in all of you,” Kennedy said. “The first day, you were looking around, fidgeting, you didn’t really know what to do with yourselves. The discipline and order that has been instilled in you is noticeable. Clearly you have all paid attention to the lessons of the academy.”

Schools Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham praised the police department for going above and beyond the call of the job.

“Their job is to protect and serve but they do far more than that,” Latham said. “This is one program they do to make this community better.”

Graduates include: Joenel Aguero, Joel Aguero, Madison Atton, Yassine Bakhouch, Edwin Ramos Cader, Josue Caceres, Nelisha Carrion, Ismail Casso, Livingston Chalas, Raymond Castor, Aratris Chaviano, Liliana Cruz, Noah Corbishley, Sarah Deoliveira, Tyler Coukos, Andrew Doane, Jaydin DeArco, Jasmin Gonzalez, Manyuri DeLeon, Kassandra Gonzalez, Jonathan Ellis, Phat Hoang, Jose Garcia, Jonathan Kim, Darlin Guzman, Luz Linares, Bryan Landaverde, Walter Martinez, Juna Mont Louis, Kyle McCusker, Daniil Malaev, Brian Melara, Regner Nival, Devin Nguyen, Natalie Noesi, Tomi Oladunjoye, Chidi Ojiaku, Ike Oranekwu, Jacquelyn Ramirez, Joselyn Perez, Luis Rivera, Aramis Sanchez, Jefferey Robles, Martin Taveras, Daniel Sanchez, Carl Thompson, Alexandra Vasquez, and Julio Lugo.

Recipient of Most Outstanding Cadet Award Jacquelyn Ramirez performed “God Bless America” on the violin pic.twitter.com/NljbNkdExE


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

From yoga to welding, a community enriched

From left, Cody Maher and Kaleb Allen being enthusiastic about welding class.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — The Lynn Community Enrichment Program is wrapping up this week, after seeing success in its first session.

Tony Dunn is the program coordinator of the night courses at Lynn Vocational and Technical Institute, which were offered three evenings a week, over a winter session that began on Jan. 25. He said the first semester of doing the program was a success, with over 100 people — 18 years of age and older — enrolled in 14 different classes.

Dunn said the spring session will begin on May 2, with 20 courses offered and 17 teachers participating.

“We’re going to do it as long as the need is out there,” Dunn said. “Hopefully it will grow. We want it to grow in the vocational aspect and be a chief resource for people to learn about different careers and find a way into those careers.”

Courses offered in the winter session included oil burner technician, milling machine operation, welding, introduction to the internet, conversational English and Spanish, yoga, cake decorating and cooking.

“People were very happy to get out of their homes and do something,” Dunn said. “They learned something that isn’t available to them normally. It’s an opportunity to learn skills they may develop into jobs in the future.”

Dunn said yoga was the most well-received class offered over the winter.

“Everyone raved about how peaceful and calm it made them feel,” he said.

Dunn said the courses are only six weeks in length and tuition is $60. Courses offered in the spring will include a writing course for people who would like to write their memoirs or a novel,

introduction to lathe, carpentry, a course to teach people how to be a nanny, CPR and first aid, and computer application in Spanish.

Initially, as a committee for the program, Dunn said it was thought that doing a spring session would be rushing the program. However, he said the enthusiastic response has told him to keep going. He said School Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham has been instrumental in moving the program forward.

With the success, Dunn said the opportunity is there for three sessions a year in the future.

“We’re excited about it and hope people are too,” he said.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley